Can a Children's Aid Society Interview my Children without my consent? Should I speak to the CAS?

children being taken by children’s aid societyYes. In Ontario, a Children’s Aid Society has the right to interview children without their parents’ consent during the course of a child protection investigation (an investigation into abuse or neglect).  The Ministry of Children and Youth Services included interviewing children in the standards for the proper conduct of child protection investigations.  Decisions in Ontario’s Child Protection Courts then said that functions of children’s aid societies under s. 15(4) the Child and Family Services Act must conducted in a manner consistent with those standards, which means the Act requires interviews of children.  Since the standards say that children should be interviewed in the absence of the adults under investigation, that means the children’s aid society must interview children alone. The school cannot stop the CAS from interviewing a child either.  There may be issues as to whether a particular CAS worker is qualified to interview a child with specific special needs.  However, refusing to let a child speak to a CAS worker only makes it look like you are trying to hide something and you are afraid that the child may tell the CAS that you are abusing him or her.

Children are allowed to have a lawyer present while being interviewed.  However, it is the child’s right to have the assistance of a lawyer not the parent’s right to have the child have a lawyer.  It must be the child who seeks out and retains the lawyer, not the parent.  When a parent intervenes to get a child the lawyer, that also looks like the parent trying to interfere with the child protection investigation to hide something.  In short, if a parent sends a lawyer into the interview with the child, that looks bad to both the children’s aid society and the judge.

Whether you speak to a CAS worker yourself is a more complicated matter - and you really need to consult with a lawyer who does child protection law.  If you do not cooperate with the CAS, that will be held against you.  However, if the concerns are that you did something contrary to the Criminal Code, then you also have a right not to speak to the CAS because the CAS worker will tell the police every thing you say.   If you are charged, you statements may be used against you in criminal court.  If you do not speak, your refusal to speak to the CAS may be used against you in child protection court and make it difficult for you to get your kids back if the CAS takes them.  This is a very difficult situation to be in.  Child protection lawyers (the small number of family lawyers who do Children's Aid Society cases) can give you a lot of valuable advice, specific to your situation, to try to keep you out of trouble.

Another good reason to speak to child protection lawyer right away is that there is a big advantage to having a lawyer ready to fight back right away if the Children's Aid Society does take your kids, or starts court proceedings, or asks you to sign an agreement permitting the agency to be in your life.  For more on that, see this article.

Ontario Family Law Podcast - Episode 23 - Why You Need a Last Will and Testament

28 - What to do when the Children's Aid Society Calls

Learn more about what to do when a children’s aid society calls doing an investigation into child abuse or neglect, by listen to this episode of the Ontario Family Law Podcast. It covers how to act, whether you should speak to the investigator, whether you should let the children be interviewed, what to sign and what not to sign, when to speak to a lawyer and several other tips.

John's Book:

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Famly Law - an easy to understand book to help with separation, divorce, family court, mediation, arbitration and child welfare

An easy-to-understand guide to Ontario Family Law for non-lawyers. Click on the cover above to purchase on Amazon.

There is also a chapter on what to do when the children’s aid society is investigating you in this easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law, which available as a paper back and as a $9.99 as a Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for iPad, iPhone or Mac Get a copy today because you really need to know not only your rights when dealing with a children’s aid society, but also how to avoid saying or doing things that seem like a good idea, but which the children’s aid society can use against you.  The ebook can be downloaded in minutes, so you can find out more immediately - before you speak to the CAS or do anything further.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on Kindle

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It really is worth your while to consult a child protection lawyer and read the book because if you get yourself into a trouble in a CAS case, it can take a long time to get yourself out and that may mean that your kids are in foster care for a long time.  Getting good advice early on can keep you out of trouble.

John Schuman is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has done children’s aid society cases for more than 15 years, acting for parents, children’s aid societies and native “bands” (the term in the Child and Family Services Act for First Nations. HIs article on the developmentally appropriate way to interview children is still one of the leading resources used to teach investigators how to interview child witnesses.  John is also the author of the “Child in the Courtroom” chapter of Wilson on Children and the Law.  John has a unique approach to advancing the interests of parents and their children (and sometimes their First Nation) by using his comprehensive knowledge of child protection law and constitutional law to develop effective strategies.   He has developed this different, yet effective, approach because John does not practice under the Ontario Legal Aid Plan and is not constrained by the limitations of that service because he operates with private financial retainers.   To contact John Schuman, call 416-446-4036, email him, or use the form below.  We view child protection and children’s aid societies matters as emergencies and we will get back you immediately.  Be prepared to come in for a consultation right away as we want to respond to the CAS and protect you right away.

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